National’s Andrew Bayly is well on his way to a landslide win in the Port Waikato byelection.
The run-off comes more than a month on from the General Election. It was required after the death of Act Party candidate Neil Christensen in the lead-up to when the rest of the country’s voters had their say on electorate MPs in October.
And decision day in the byelection comes just a day after National, Act and New Zealand First signed a coalition deal to be the Government.
Bayly held a strong lead right from the start of initial counted votes shortly after 7pm.
And by the time 50 per cent of votes had been counted, about 13,800 individual votes, Bayly had 10,676 and New Zealand First’s Casey Costello had 2042.
When the count had neared the 70 per cent mark, he had an almost 10,000 vote lead. The 10,000 lead mark was reached when 82 per cent of the vote was in.
The progression of vote counting underlined Bayly’s dominance all night.
With 5.9 per cent of the vote counted, about 4000 individual votes, Bayly had 3244.
Costello had 562 votes. Alfred Ngaro, of his NewZeal Party, was third on the preliminary count with 79 votes.
By the time 15.7 per cent of the vote had been counted at around 7.15pm, about 9800 individual votes, Bayly had 7756.
Costello had 1378 and Ngaro 201.
At just under 30 per cent of votes counted, about 12,300 individual votes, Bayly had 9602 and Costello 1808.
The candidates are Bayly, Scotty Bright of DemocracyNZ, Costello, independent Gordon John Dickson, Ngaro, Jill Annette Ovens of the Women’s Rights Party, Anna Joy Rippon of the Animal Justice Party, Vijay Sudhamalla of Vision New Zealand and Kim Turner of New Zealand Loyal.
The Labour Party put up Gwendoline Keel in the seat for the 2023 election until Christensen’s death, but decided not to stand a candidate in the byelection, saying Labour’s resources would be better put towards its transition to opposition.
Labour Party president Jill Day said contesting an “unwinnable byelection takes focus and resources away from that role”.
The Electoral Commission has confirmed that 3625 ordinary votes were cast at voting places in the first three days of advance voting in the byelection between November 13 and 15.
Last week, National said it was low on funds – and with byelections having different spending rules from a general election, one expert tells the Herald it could spend double what is normally allowed.
National sent an email to its supporters last Friday saying: “After we successfully defeated Labour in the general election, our war chest is running low. Can we count on your support?”
The email included a link to directly donate $30 to the party, after adding, “National and [leader] Christopher Luxon need this seat”.
Electoral law expert and barrister Graeme Edgeler said there were few differences between bylections and the General Election, apart from spending limits, usual voter turnout and a murkiness around advertising restrictions.
Candidates are allowed to spend up to $65,200 on advertising in the byelection, Edgeler said. In a general election, candidates are limited to spending $32,600.
He explained this was because parties had to split their spending limits between advertising for party votes and candidate votes in each electorate, while in a bylection they could focus solely on promoting their candidates.
“When you’ve got a byelection, every advertisement is just going to be ‘vote for me as a candidate’. So basically, the costs are slightly higher when you’re running a byelection,” Edgeler said.
Voting closed at 7pm and a confirmed result is expected by 9pm.